Prasar Bharati board meets tomorrow, as time running out for DD to seal deal on cricket World Cup telecast

The rather sorry deal national broadcaster Doordarshan has got for the ongoing FIFA World Cup seems to have galvanised Prasar Bharati to get proactive on the issue of terrestrial telecast of ICC-organised cricket matches.

The board of Prasar Bharati, overseeing the functioning of DD and All India Radio, is meeting in New Delhi tomorrow to decide on the strategy to be adopted vis-a-vis the ICC-organised cricket matches.

Sony Entertainment TV India has bagged the satellite rights for the ICC cricket for the region for the next six years, including the two next World Cups, from World Sports Group Nimbus for a reported sum of $ 255 million.

According to industry sources, DD, which had earlier given a proposal of $ 90 million for the terrestrial rights, has come up with a new offer, which also includes revenue sharing with the organisation that undertakes the marketing of the cricket matches to be telecast on DD. Sources said that Nimbus Communication may do the marketing of the matches telecast on DD if a deal is struck.

A Prasar Bharati official said: "We are still very interested in acquiring the terrestrial telecast rights."

The offer from DD had been 70:30 (WSG Nimbus:DD) per cent revenue sharing between Prasar Bharati and the company which will sell airtime.

Now, according to new information available, WSG Nimbus has said if revenue sharing is to happen from the first dollar earned, that it would have to be in the ratio of 85:15 per cent. WSG Nimbus has said a 70:30 revenue sharing deal would be possible only when the telecast cost of $90 million is factored in, the rider being that sharing will happen only after this amount has been fully recovered.

Both DD and WSG Nimbus are in a bind to seal a deal as there is an "exit" clause between Sony Entertainment and WSN that becomes effective on 15 June. This means that SET, which has the C&S telecast rights, will have to be offered the terrestrial rights (after paying an additional fee) which leaves open a real possibility that DD could lose any rights over ICC-organised cricket matches for six years, sources aver. If this were to happen, the massive public and political uproar that would certainly ensue needs little imagining.

Quizzed on the pubcaster's delayed response when it comes to telecast rights of sporting events, the official said that unlike a private sector company like a Star India or Zee or Sony Entertainment, Prasar Bharati still has to be careful when it quotes higher amounts of money as each and every decision of the Corporation can be questioned in Parliament. 

But the source also indicated that feelers have come from World Sports Nimbus that it too is interested in having a relationship with DD. "These are encouraging signals and we are hopeful that tomorrow's board meeting will be able to come up with some solution on cricket rights." 

Sony Entertainment Television few months back announced bagging the exclusive cable and satellite television rights for six years for live telecast in the sub-continent of ICC tournaments, including the 2003 and 2007 World Cups in South Africa and West Indies, respectively.

Pointing out that this was a mega acquisition, SET India's chief executive Kunal Dasgupta in a statement then had said: "This is the biggest deal in India's television history and largest telecast or broadcast deal in the game of cricket, including the two World Cups and three Under-19 World Cups."

The cricket matches will be aired on SET Max channel where the programming is a mish-mash of Hindi films and cricket. The rights will allow Sony to beam over 300 days of international cricket including coverage of leading ICC championships. Sony beat others like ESPN for the cricket telecast rights for which bids were invited by WSG Nimbus some time back.

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